Recognizing & Managing Anger

8. Recognize Blocks to Express Anger

There are many blocks to the recognition of your anger. Whether it is blocked by control or fear, beliefs or myths, the need to look good or fear of retaliation, your anger needs to be recognized and expressed.

If anger is not responded to, or a way is not found to deplete it, it can become even more caustic. Anger left unattended can create a vicious cycle that fuels and feeds itself. Understand your blocks to expressing anger and work hard at finding ways to release its energy. You can identify these blocks when you:

  • Release fear of losing control
  • Discard fear of retaliation
  • Review secondary agendas
  • Question unfounded loyalty
  • Dispute the need to look good

Release the Fear of Losing Control

For many people, expressing anger means losing control, which implies being psychotic. These individuals probably acquired this perception of anger by spending time around others who did not have effective anger management skills. For instance, when they were children, these individuals may have seen adults who were angry act “crazy.” This can be very frightening. Children who have seen adults yell, throw things, and physically attack each other will associate anger with being out of control and they will not allow themselves to express anger for fear of losing control also.

If you have formed this association, you need to know that every expression of anger is not the same, and that appropriately disclosed anger clears the air, and allows a person to actually stay more in control. You may need to utilize a relaxation technique to help you release this fear.

Please refer to the Relaxation Technique Tool to help you release the fear of losing control.

This exercise can be done in less than ten minutes, or you can allow it to continue as long as you like.

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position, preferably in a quiet room.
  2. Close your eyes and become aware of your own breathing. Feel your abdomen expand as you inhale; feel it contract as you exhale.
  3. Now hold your breath to the count of five (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, etc.)
  4. At the count of five, release the air in your lungs with a quick expulsion. Then, repeat the above by holding air in your lungs to the count of five. Do this several more times.
  5. Now begin to concentrate on large muscle groups. Tense the muscles in one foot.
  6. Hold that tension to the count of five, then quickly allow your muscles to return to their normal state.
  7. Move up to your lower leg, thigh, buttocks, respectively—each to the count of five.
  8. Practice releasing the tension completely.
  9. Move to your opposite side beginning at your other foot and repeat the process.
  10. Now you can begin contracting the muscles in your chest, shoulders, neck, head and back respectively, each to the count of five followed by release of the muscles. By this time, your body will generally be relaxed.

You may end the exercise here, or repeat it (or portions of it) if you desire. You may also continue with a visualization exercise of your choice, if you desire.

Discard the Fear of Retaliation 

“It happened once. I got beaten down, humiliated, physically injured.” Messages like this are saying, “I can’t protect myself now because I couldn’t in the past.” You may fear that an expression of anger always leads to retaliation from the other person.

Examine why you suppress your anger to see if it is fear-based. Then recognize that not every expression of anger leads to retaliation. Retaliation is unlikely if the way you express your anger keeps the focus on how you are feeling and does not put the other person on the defensive.

Is it possible that someone may retaliate? Of course. But if you frame your statements appropriately, the risk is minimal. Also remember that your fear of retaliation probably goes back to when you were a child, and helpless to protect yourself. You are no longer a child. You have resources and strength to deal with whatever happens.

Review Secondary Agendas

Once you recognize your anger, you should sit quietly and listen to your inner dialog. Are you vested in a certain outcome? Is your anger connected with the fear of losing something, or not getting something you want? Look for a hidden agenda you may have that is driving you to gain something—a reward, approval, acknowledgment, a bonus, or affection— the list is endless.

Question Unfounded Loyalty

I have always looked out for you and now you haven’t taken care of me, in return. I should have gotten that raise, not Ben.”

Misplaced loyalty—or worse yet, suspected disloyalty—can be the fuel on the fire. Don’t allow anger to distort perceptions that are unfounded. Restraint of tongue and pen is the watchword.

Again, unfounded loyalty is a result of unfulfilled expectations. Unmet expectations are the source of some of our most caustic anger. Did you hold an expectation that went unfulfilled? Relationships with people are dynamic and never constant. That is why misplacing loyalty can lead to disheartening results if you expect certain behaviors and results from people and you don’t get them. Review the situation when calm and seek to understand your perceptions and expectations.

Dispute the Need to Look Good

“I want people to see me as easy going, appropriate, and in charge of the situation.” “I want to look as if I always have the right answers.” “I want to present a good image at all times, in all places.”

Are any of these thoughts familiar? Check for an idealized self-image. If the fear of expressing your anger is rooted in such dialog, take the action that corrects your perceptions of who you are and what your real needs are in the situation. Sometimes anger is rooted in personal expectations of “looking good” all the time. Don’t resist the idea that you are a human being who makes mistakes just like everybody else.